There is no I in Team

If you have not heard the quote  “There is no I in Team” before, where the hell have you been living?  This is one of those lines that every coach of every team sport at every level from t-ball to the major leagues has used over an over again to try and get the players to buy into the vision that the team is more important than the individuals on the team.

Long ago when I was a senior in high school there was a brand new football coach.  And that season the players had shirts and shorts that they would wear that had the word “TEAM” in large print.  But lower and off to the side was also the word “ME”.  The thought behind this was that while the players understood that they were part of a larger team, their contributions as individuals was also important and valued.   This really stood out to me as it challenged the concept of the team first AND team only philosophy.    It worked, that group of kids played beyond everyones expectations.  This is not one of those mushy stories where I tell you through this team mantra they won titles and ended the season toting some huge trophy off the field.   But is one about how by getting all of the individuals on the team to buy into the vision, they were able to do some amazing things together not the least of which was they had a lot of fun.  You could tell they had fun in the way they wore those shirts with pride all through the week, and that no matter who you asked on the team from the starting QB to the bench warmer about the TEAM/ME shirts, all of them could instantly explain what it meant and why it was important.  For the first time ever I regretted not playing football, and not being able to be part of that experience.

I asked the folks on twitter a while back, “How do you teach passion?”  The majority of the responses agreed that there is not way to teach passion,  instead you must inspire it.   Jennifer Day wrote a great follow up blog post on the topic as well.    She states:

“You don’t teach passion, you inspire it …kindle it. Like building a fire – passion as a burning thing is pretty apt.”

I do love the quote above, it speaks to my core beliefs and philosophies.  But then I think back to high school and I say that the new football coach taught those kids on the team passion, and he did it by address not only the importance of the team but the importance of the individual as well.   Maybe it is that shared focus on the value of the individual that is the key, and by highlighting that basic need in all of us to feel valued, accepted, and part of a group/team/family is the way to “teach” passion.

Value the team. Nurture the individual. Provide the vision. Provide a stage/field for the team and the individuals to show others what they can do when a group of talented folks come together with a common goal.  To paraphrase a line from Jennifer’s article….build the fire.

There is no I in team.  But there is in passIon, vIsIon, drIve, and fIre.   Go light some fires.

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